I’m always amused by grandiose articles like like Paul Tassi’s “The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time” in FORBES At best, these articles supply a list of books that the writer likes without representing the entire Science Fiction genre. The books Paul Tassi claims are the “Best” are:
1. The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson
Neuromancer (1984)
Count Zero (1986)
Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)
2. Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
Hyperion (1989)
The Fall of Hyperion (1990)
Endymion (1996)
The Rise of Endymion (1997)
3. Ender’s Game Quartet by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game (1989)
Ender in Exile (1991)
Xenocide (1991)
Children of the Mind (1996)
First Meetings (short stories) (2002)
4. Dune Series by Frank Herbert
Dune (1965)
Dune Messiah (1969)
Children of Dune (1976)
God Emperor of Dune (1981)
Heretics of Dune (1984)
Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)
5. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season (2015)
The Obelisk Gate (2016)
The Stone Sky (2017)
6. Snow Crash by Neal Stehenson (1992)
7. The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)
Leviathan Wakes (June 15, 2011)
Caliban’s War (June 26, 2012)
Abaddon’s Gate (June 4, 2013)
Cibola Burn (June 5, 2014)
Nemesis Games (June 2, 2015)
Babylon’s Ashes (December 6, 2016)
Persepolis Rising (December 5, 2017)
Tiamat’s Wrath (March 26, 2019)
I find this to be a very odd list, heavily oriented to SF series. What are your favorite SF novels? What do you think of Paul Tassi’s list?


  1. wolf

    Imho there are so many excellent and moving SF books – I couldn’t say which are “the best”, it totally depends on your personal interests too! And it might change from time to time, especially since you get older …
    It seems too that this guy hasn’t read many older books – there were some revolutionary ones …
    My wife is just reading on her kindle all that is available in Hungarian and waiting for more translations of – The Expanse Series by James S. A. Corey!
    I’m not really a fan of this, but to each his/her own … 🙂

  2. Steve Oerkfitz

    This is a terrible list. I have the feeling the author is not very well read in SF. The only books on this list I would include are the Dan Simmons Hyperion series and the original Dune.
    Off the top of my head I would have to include ( only novels).
    The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin
    Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
    The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
    More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
    The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
    Statins of the Tide by Michael Swanwick
    The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance
    Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
    Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    Without going into a list at the moment, I have to agree this is a bad list. I read the first in the Expanse series and thought it was OK, but even in my limited SF reading over the years, this wouldn’t come close to a “best” book. Steve has some pretty good titles (the ones I’ve read, of course) .

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I’ve read all the books on Steve’s excellent SF list. I recommend all of them. I’m a couple books behind in THE EXPANSE SERIES. It’s good…but not great.

  4. Michael Padgett

    I more or less quit reading SF in the mid-to-late Eighties, so the only ones I’ve read from the Tassi list are are “Dune” (just the first one) and the Gibson trilogy. On the other hand, I’ve read and liked all but one of the novels from Steve’s list. One of the main reasons I abandoned SF is that at some point everything had to be a series, or at least a trilogy. So I moved on to mysteries, horror, and mainstream and have never looked back.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, I know the feeling of trilogy-itis. But publishers (and Hollywood) want sequels to successful works. It’s all about the Money.

    2. wolf

      Like in Hollywood today everything has to be turned into a series – often with disastrous results, especially if the novel/movie was originally supposed to be “one of a kind” – but the studio/publisher smelled more money.

  5. Rick Robinson

    Ridiculous. I don’t know who he is, nor how old he is, but it’s pretty obvious he’s not well read in the science fiction genre. Also, naturally, the use of “best” heading up the article leaves much to explain, as we have no idea what he means by that. Most exciting, or well written, or best world-building, or cheapest on the seconds shelf? Something else? We have no way to know.

    Certainly, if multiple volumes are allowed, as he has, then Asimov’s FOUNDATION books should be on any list. I agree with Steve on some of his picks, the Clarke, Dick and Vonnegut, but not the others. The original DUNE should be there, Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS and, perhaps, STRANGER IN A STRAGE LAND. FAHRENHEIT 451, and also perhaps THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE. Plus, since I consider them SF, the first Pern novel, DRAGONFLIGHT. Also not to be missed on such a list would be Hal Clement’s MISSION OF GRAVITY.

    1. Steve Oerkfitz

      Have to disagree a bit with Rick. The Mote in God’s Eye is extremely misogynist and poorly written with cringe worthy dialogue. The Puppet Masters is fun but not great. The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney covers the same territory much better. The Foundation books are tedious and date poorly. I never warmed to Stranger In A Strange Land but realize it was an important book in the field. I felt the same way about Neuromancer. I should have included Fahrenheit 451. The Pern books always struck me as the Black Beauty books with dragons instead of horses.

      1. Rick Robinson

        Been decades since I read MOTE, but didn’t recall misogynist nature of it. You may be right about Foundation books, but they are important and I was certainly impressed when I read them in the 1960s. Having never read any Black Beauty, I don’t know how to evaluate your comment on the McCaffrey.

      2. Michael Padgett

        That’s an interesting comment on “The Mote in God’s Eye”. I read it in the early Seventies when the book was new and I was only 30, and thought that it was wonderfully entertaining. I’m sure you’re right about it and that if I read it again now I’d be mortified. It was in the Seventies that cracks really began to appear in SF’s wall of misogyny, and the field (and we) are better for it.

      3. george Post author

        Steve, I had the same reaction that you did when I reread THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY. I was surprised about how “chatty” they were.

    2. george Post author

      Rick, you’re right on the money with your SF novel recommendations. Paul Tassi’s list has a bias toward new SF titles. And series.

  6. Cap'n Bob

    What, no BATTLEFIELD EARTH? I haven’t read enough s-f to make an informed opinion but his list seems rather limited to me!

    1. george Post author

      Bob, you’re right. Paul Tassi’s selections don’t seem representative of the whole SF field. But, many of the readers of FORBES will end up reading the recommended books on his BEST SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME list.

  7. Todd Mason

    Tassi’s list is pretty atrocious. If Pournelle and Niven are fecklessly misogynist…I haven’t read EYE yet either, OC Card is nuts. Which he is, anyway.

    Among those I’d definitely include from other lists are Rick’s citation of Clement’s MISSION OF GRAVITY and the Le Guin, the Sturgeon, the Dick, the Silverberg and the Vance from Steve’s list, though I’d opt for THE SIRENS OF TITAN for my Vonnegut as his best sf novel among a crowded small field.

    Others I’d add to my list of books would include
    THE FEMALE MAN by Joanna Russ
    THE CLONE by Kate Wilhelm and Theodore Thomas
    DEATH QUALIFIED by Wilhelm
    334 by Thomas Disch
    UNDERLAY by Barry Mazlberg (though it’s more surreal than sfnal, it has one strong sfnal aspect) or HEROVIT’S WORLD if we want to be more purist
    THE DEATH MACHINE aka ROGUE MOON by Algis Budrys
    THE ENQUIRIES OF DOCTOR ESZTERHAZY by Avram Davidson (a mix of fantasy and sf and historical fiction…MASTERS OF THE MAZE if we’re being purist)
    ARSLAN by M. J. Engh
    STARLIGHT by Alfred Bester
    a tough choice between Damon Knight collections
    KINDRED by Octavia Butler if fantasy (horror, I’d say) is in, and at least a collection from her if not
    and several dozen more, easily, such as THE BEST OF FREDERIK POHL

    1. george Post author

      Todd, your list is vastly better than Tassi’s list! I have THE COMPLETE STORIES OF THEODORE STURGEON and hope to read them all in 2020 (another one of of my long-term projects).

  8. Todd Mason

    Paul Tassi, whom Alice refers to as “completely uninformed” in his primary bailiwick as a videogames reviewer for FORBES, has now coughed up another literary hairball, a shorter and less completely off the rails, but still not giving evidence of wide-ranging nor sophisticated reading the field, The Most Bestest Horror Novels of All Times Forever and Ever, thus:
    The Best Horror Books Of All Time
    Paul Tassi, Contributor, Games: News and opinion about video games, television, movies and the internet.
    [This story was written in collaboration with Forbes Finds. Forbes Finds covers products and experiences we think you’ll love. Featured products are independently selected and linked to for your convenience. If you buy something using a link on this page, Forbes may receive a small share of that sale.]

    It Pennywise

    Books have the ability to terrify unlike any other medium, and the horror genre is one of the largest in fiction with some of the most classic stories in all of literature. Here are what I consider the six best books in horror history, though all choices are, of course, subjective. Given their popularity, many of these have been adapted into TV shows or films, but as ever, it’s always best to read the original.

    Here are the six best horror books of all time:
    It by Stephen King
    I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
    World War Z, by Max Brooks
    Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Dracula by Bram Stoker

    Read the rationales, hit the links to give FORBES a kickback, at

    1. george Post author

      Todd, Paul Tassi’s “Best Horror Books of All Time” is just as flawed as his “Best Science Fiction Books of All Time.” No Poe, no Lovecraft, no Clark Ashton Smith, etc. I hope the readers of FORBES realize this Tassi is ill-informed and should be banned from generating these lame lists!

      1. Todd Mason

        He’s just a shallow small-bore income generator for them, I’m sure. They don’t care about what he writes about s long as he makes them enough ROI on paying him for the columns.

        He can’t even write “novel” when he means novel, rather than “book”…

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